Rain & Carolina in My Mind

Day 4-5: Unicoi Gap to Standing Indian 

After I spent my first night off the trail, I felt like a super human. An entire night of sleep without incessant wake-ups, along with crushing some hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast will do that to you. We intended our first day back to be a lower mileage day but when you’re feeling good and the body is cooperating, you just keep on walking. Part of the beauty of thru-hiking is the flexible scheduling.

My buddy Joe and I seemed to have a higher baseline of strength and endurance than the average thru-hiker at this stage. Between his pre-trail workout regimen and my XC ski and ultra marathon training we were well equipped to start pushing some relatively higher mileage days right out the gate. It’s the type of hiking style we enjoy, but it does come with a slight aura of loneliness. We meet a lot of cool people, but ultimately we have to hike onward, unsure if we’ll meet them again. Being unafraid to go my own pace is important to me, and independence is a key reason I’m out here.

At sunset on day 4 we stopped at a campsite a half mile past Dicks Creek Gap. We got the entire site to ourselves, an AT first for us. We certainly noticed the initial crowds starting to thin. We made a quick stop at Around the Bend Outfitters/Hostel in the morning, and I enjoyed watching their cat, Sassy, climb up the shuttle van’s doors. I saw three trail cats in the 78 miles of trail through Georgia, which comes out to one cat every 26 miles. I don’t have any other states to compare to yet, but that seems like a fairly good cat per mile ratio to me. I can only hope this number improves.

8 miles after leaving Dicks Creek Gap, we came to the North Carolina & Georgia border. We felt like we’d already done and seen so much, but also couldn’t believe how quickly the first state crossing came. While Georgia pampered us, North Carolina had no intentions of following suit. The climbs instantly seemed to get longer and punchier. When we got to our campsite, we saw posted notices of local bear activity and we experienced winds that ripped our tent stakes out. With that, we realized the trail was starting to get more serious.

Day 6-7: Standing Indian to Franklin, NC 

Overnight, the wind welcomed in the rain. We woke up to wet tents, but good spirits. I explicitly remember Joe saying, “Hey, when it rains it doesn’t usually last all day…right?” The rain proceeded to last all day. We tried to embrace it with a good attitude. I’ve always been a fan of the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” but I don’t think it applies to the AT. The rain penetrates through your gear, you, and most of the things you own become sopping wet. We pushed on, determined to squeeze out a 20-mile day.

We came across a hiker from London named Quick on the Draw (he creates beautiful drawings in a sketchbook he would later show us at Rock Gap Shelter), who mentioned we were the only ones he’d seen all day. Most other hikers were wisely trying to avoid the rain, meanwhile we were climbing toward the Albert Mountain Fire Tower while hearing distant rumblings of thunder. We both had dark mental moments this day. My ankle felt inflamed, I had painful pinky toe blisters, and the rain and cold was freezing me to the core. When we stopped temporarily at a shelter for food, I realized I lost most of the dexterity in my hands. It felt like a miracle that I was able to cook my food. I was frustrated and honestly a little scared, but we kept on pushing and made it to our dry respite at Rock Gap Shelter. It never felt so good to climb into my quilt.

The next day we walked out of our shelter and directly to the shuttle that would take us to The Grove Hostel in Franklin, NC. We went on to have a much-needed day of showering, doing laundry, resupplying, and enjoying some R&R. We headed to Lazy Hiker Brewery with our bunk mates Stefan and Guidebook to chat over some brews and bask out in the sun. It was hard to believe we were slogging through the rain less than 24 hours ago. Unfiltered and Newfound were our hostel hosts and they were fantastic. Warm, friendly, and full of sage advice from their thru-hiking experiences. We’ve gotten a lot of great mentorship on the trail so far.

The AT is a real roller coaster of emotions. One minute you’re headed in a downward spiral, but sooner than later you come back around to having the time of your life. I’m just going to keep on trying to enjoy the ride. One day at a time.

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Comments 2

  • Christian Byar : Mar 29th

    Great post! Keep them coming.

  • Nicki : Mar 29th

    ‘quick on the draw’ is my husband. thanks for the news


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